Posts Tagged ‘single family’

Incentive zoning draws a crowd and strange bedfellows

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Incentive zoning to create affordable housing had a lengthy public hearing tonight.

Labor likes incentive zoning saying that “development left unchecked [will] widen the gap between rich and poor.” That doesn’t sound very “pro-development.”

But Steve Williamson from UFCW Local 21 said “We are pro development.” But Williamson added that we “want shared prosperity” which means requiring housing for people making 40% AMI requiring union labor for construction.

Labor supports incentive zoning as 'Development with Justice'

Labor supports incentive zoning as 'Development with Justice'

Low income housing advocates are in favor of this as well seeing an opportunity for new housing units and new dollars from a pay in lieu element in the legislation.

But there are two unlikely groups aligned against incentive zoning.

The first is John Fox’s Displacement Coalition. Fox in a recent e-mail about incentive zoning he said that “for months, our Mayor and most of our City Council have been hashing over new programs designed to reward developers with tax breaks, more density, and other giveaways.” In the same e-mail Fox calls for a moratorium on growth.

The second vocal group tonight was the business community and developers. Steve Leahy of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce said that the proposal is actually a disincentive for new development. Up zones are incentive enough and the best way to create more affordable housing. They don’t see a giveaway here.

What do single family neighborhoods think of incentive zoning? On October 21st the City Neighborhood Council will be holding a meeting to discuss what incentive zoning might mean for single family neighborhoods.

Will single family neighborhoods join developers and the Displacement Coalition against incentive zoning? Do neighborhoods see incentive zoning as more density at their expense? Does the recent financial crisis make incentive zoning moot since credit has frozen and nobody can build or buy?

Reading the scale

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

A recent afternoon walk around Capitol Hill led me from Volunteer Park down 14th.

Along the way I saw this single family fantasy:

Beautiful bricks!

Beautiful bricks!

Then not to far down the road yet another study in brick:

This is the Fairhome.  Unfortunately there is no vacancy.

This is the Fairhome. Unfortunately there is no vacancy.

The Fairhome is a solid building that recalls a time when apartment buildings looked like they were built to last forever.

If we peek around the corner of the Fairhome we see:

Gasp!  A single family home.

Gasp! Single family!

And across the street are some great looking old homes.

Solid Seattle houses.

Solid Seattle houses.

And just to the south is this little multifamily number:

Kid on bicycle not included.

Kid on bicycle not included.

And a duplex.

And a bit further south, a duplex.

Scale (as in “this project is out of scale with our neighborhood”) is often used to reject multifamily in and around single family neighborhoods. This neighborhood came together when suburbs were not common and when expectations about scale were different. Look at the stark contrast in scale on 14th and Mercer:

Big switch.

This is a Seattle Housing Authority property.

Talk about out of scale! A high rise of low-income housing?

But this neighborhood — old and new, wealthy, middle class and poor–seems to be working.

The mix is what we want in Seattle’s housing future. There isn’t a clear line or barrier between types of housing but a gradual progression of types of housing, income materials and style. This looks like it happened “organically” but couldn’t we plan the same kind of integration? Who wouldn’t want to live in any unit or house between the Park and John?

Home ownership: bailout or bankruptcy?

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008
Does the financial crisis mean the end of the American Dream--what does that mean for Seattle?

Does the financial crisis mean the end of the American Dream? What does that mean for the Seattle Dream?

News from Washington D.C. has people baffled, worried and angry.

An economist from Harvard offers an observation in a recent commentary that raises some questions similar to the ones raised in our discussion on Monday:

So what should the government do? Eliminate those policies that generated the current mess. This means, at a general level, abandoning the goal of home ownership independent of ability to pay. This means, in particular, getting rid of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with policies like the Community Reinvestment Act that pressure banks into subprime lending.

The right view of the financial mess is that an enormous fraction of subprime lending should never have occurred in the first place. Someone has to pay for that. That someone should not be, and does not need to be, the U.S. taxpayer.

His argument is persuasive and has me rethinking the bailout (cough) I mean rescue.

But abandoning the goal of “home ownership independent of ability to pay” is a prescription easily given by a Harvard economist but not from local politicians. Politicians don’t have the courage to ask people to revise their expectations as Miron suggests. But what if they did?

Is it possible that growth pressures combined with the financial crisis could spawn a local movement supportive of density in and around single family neighborhoods?

Will the crisis push environmentalists, developers and housing advocates closer together? Or will the crisis between Main Street and Wall Street add fuel to the fire of our own local class worries about housing and growth? Could this mean a rematch between the ghosts of Forward Thrust and Lesser Seattle?

Our house

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

About 65 percent of Seattle is zoned for single family housing. Is that too much or just right?

In Chicago and DC, all of my friends lived in apartments or condos. In Portland, they all live in standalone houses, even the renters, though some have lots of roommates. In Seattle, it’s a real mix, with townhouses, rowhouses and duplexes increasingly entering the picture.

Does our Single Family majority keep prices high? Are we ill-equipped for all this growth people keep predicting? Does Seattle have too much single family land?

I asked two SeattleScape bloggers to take on the debate. Their pieces ran in today’s DJC and can be read here without a subscription.

Irene Wall argues that Single Family housing is Seattle’s Golden Goose and we’re doing great on density already. Roger Valdez, a new blogger at SeattleScape, makes the case that preserving all that land for standalone homes hurts the working class.

What do you think? Is Seattle’s house in order? HugeAss City weighs in here.

In case you blinked and missed it

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

September has been a busy month for Seattle land use. Here’s your primer on what’s going down and what’s going up.

South Lake Union looks up: The Department of Planning and Development released three up-zoning alternatives for South Lake Union. These are being studied in advance of the rezone there.

Inside the beehive

In one, residential towers could reach to 30 and 40 stories in most of the neighborhood. In another, most blocks would be up-zoned to 240 feet for both commercial and residential buildings. That’s about the height of 2200 Westlake.

In a third vision, commercial height increases would be minimal, with residential towers allowed to be 160 feet and 240 feet outside the Cascade blocks.

Most blocks in South Lake Union are now zoned at 65 to 85 feet.

Private improvements for Magnuson: Full council gave the nod to private renovation and leasing of two buildings at the Warren G. Magnuson Park at Sand Point.

Building 11 will get $8.5 million for environmental cleanup, seismic upgrades and fire protection. Building 11 LLC would pay $235,000 in annual rent to the city under a 30-year lease.

Arena Sports will invest more than $5.5 million in Hangar 27 for improvements and seismic upgrades. Arena Sports will pay $225,000 in annual rent under a 20-year lease.

Fort Lawton gets Green Light: A plan to turn the formal army reserve center into housing is headed to federal officials for approval. Council said OK to the semi-finalized proposal to build up to 79 single-family houses, 150 apartments and townhouses, and two new neighborhood parks on the 31-acre site.

The project could cost between $60 million and $80 million and is heavy on low-income housing, including three duplexes for Habitat for Humanity and 85 other low-income units.

McMansions reigned in: Full council is scheduled to vote Oct. 6 on design changes for single family zones aimed at curbing McMansions. Heights, lot coverage and garages would all see changes.

Looking ahead: Council’s transportation committee could voice its support for a streetcar network Monday morning, Mayor Greg Nickels gives his budget address Monday at 2 p.m. and a hearing on making the downtown developer bonus citywide is scheduled for Oct. 7 at 5:30 p.m.

Council will also vote on comp plan amendments, set the budget, likely rule on citywide incentive zoning and more well before the star is up on the old Bon Marche building.

Maybe you can rest your eyes in January. . .